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How I Spent My Summer Vacation

First, I should probably acknowledge that I didn’t set out to take the entire summer off from the big blog but after my last post on June 4th, I thought a couple of weeks of R & R would be a good thing. It had been a long winter, damp spring and I wanted to take some time to enjoy the nice weather and just wander around with my camera and grab some photographs of whatever.


A saucy Harris Sparrow looking for handouts in the Byward Market in downtown Ottawa

Although I’m not really much of a bird watcher, I ended up taking more than a few photographs of birds because they seemed to be everywhere I went; especially gulls. Those buggers are even more urban than I am.

A mallard checking his "junk" in a park in Ottawa

A mallard checking his “junk” in a park in Ottawa

Things were going well. I was enjoying my time off and playing with my camera and post-production software but was starting to feel like it was time to get back to writing and that is precisely when we had the flood.

At some point in the middle of the night, a valve in the main upstairs bathroom sprung a leak and by the time we woke up in the morning, water had flooded the bathroom, the upstairs hallway, my office/studio and flowed down through the ceiling into the kitchen, a second bathroom and the main hallway to the garage.

Well shit!

jpl-logo1I called the insurance company which sent out a disaster relief company to deal with the mess. Because we live in Quebec, their promotional material is bilingual and a literal translation of their French slogan into English elevates things from an expensive inconvenience to  a sinister circumstance and sinister it became.

Within four hours, they had ripped out floors and parts of some walls and ceilings. A plumber was brought in to deal with the broken valve and a second crew came in to mop up the water and cart all the dead flooring and drywall out to the garage where it was stacked waiting to be picked up later.

Then they brought in the dryer fans.

We’re not talking cute little heating units, these suckers are huge – and loud. They were placed all over the kitchen and upstairs in the bathroom, my office/studio and the hallway.

They ran day and night for two weeks before things were sufficiently dry to begin phase II which, as it turned out involved ripping out more walls and ceilings, ripping up more flooring and taking down our kitchen cupboards. It also involved gutting the upstairs and downstairs bathrooms leaving us with the small ensuite in our bedroom.

Everything in my office was boxed up and stacked in a spare bedroom. Most of our kitchen stuff was also boxed and stacked in other part of the house. Furniture was picked up and moved out to be stored off site and a giant dumpster was parked in our driveway in which all the crap was thrown and as a signal to our neighbours that our house was in the middle of a sinister disaster.

We lived with that for the entire month of July. I still had computer access but I was restricted to the corner of the dining room table squeezed in between boxes of Tupperware and other boxes full of spices, kitchenware and assorted unidentified ‘stuff’. It wasn’t conducive to writing wildly entertaining blog posts – or taking photographs either to be honest – and my optimism and usual sunny disposition were both slowly dissolving into frustration that was bordering on psychopathic.

Things went from bad to worse when it was announced that the insurance company would happily pick up the $25,000 tab to repair the damage but because it was now the middle of July, work would not start until August because of the Quebec Construction Holiday. In Quebec, the construction industry shuts down for the last two weeks of July and its members all go fishing and hunting or whatever they all enjoy doing together.

So much for a prompt initiation of Phase III.

In August, the project management company finally showed up and with great fanfare and enthusiasm, Phase III finally began and what a treat that turned out to be.

For the next six weeks, trades people showed up at our home every day between 7:00 and 7:30 am. This, of course, meant I could no longer wander naked into the kitchen to get that first cup of coffee and that meant my days weren’t starting in their traditional fashion. The dogs didn’t much care for the trades and we would endure between a half hour and an hour of ferocious barking every morning until they finally gave up. It was almost a relief when it came time to get out of the house and drive Maggie to work.

I won’t bore you with the details of the work, suffice it to say that it involved a lot of hammering, banging, power sawing, more hammering and more banging and the occasional “Merde!” which is a French term meaning “shit!” When it’s used, it seldom indicates something positive has happened. We were walking around on sub-floors, picking cement dust and God knows what else out of our food and trying to remember which box held whatever it was we needed at a particular moment.

downloadI was saying “merde” a lot myself by that time but not only because of the construction. The election campaign had started and I was in no position or mood to write about it. As it turns out, that was probably a good thing. I would probably be spending a great deal of time apologizing for what I might have written. But not writing did give me a chance to be more of an observer than a commentator and while I did post comments on my Facebook page for the amusement of my family and friends, staying out of the fray gave me time to think.

I’m not going to do a post mortem on the election now although I’d dearly like to take a few shots at the media for their atrocious and unbelievably shallow election coverage despite the fact that it was virtually wall-to-wall and 24/7. Some of it was so bad that after reading, hearing or watching it, I wanted to stick a serrated vegetable peeler in my left nostril and twist it until my frustration had abated. I would have done that but I couldn’t find the vegetable peeler – it was in one of the dozens of boxes stacked in the hallway or the dining room.

The election is over and it is what it is and my nose remains in tact. What falls to us now is how we are going to proceed in this new political era.

For me in some ways, the election campaign was like the flood in our home and the election itself was the resolution. By that I mean, the flood and the damage it caused was ugly (or sinister if you speak French) but it was resolved with new flooring, new walls, some new paint and trim.

As frustrating and upsetting as it was, we dealt with it and are moving forward.

It’s the same with our country. The campaign was ugly but the election was its final resolution. The choices have been made. The basic structure of government remains the same but there are new faces and a different political party forming a new government.

As Canadians, we have a choice. We can be bitter, resentful, suspicious and hyper-partisan about it all or we can look on the election as a new beginning. The new government made a number of promises and we will all be watching to see if those promises are kept but whether or not this is a fresh start is up to us – not the government.images

We can be optimistic or pessimistic until we’re proven wrong either way. We can continue to cluster in partisan tribes that harangue each other for not agreeing on trivial political issues or we can have more respect for each other and the right of others to hold and voice their opinions even when they disagree with ours.

It’s only a fresh start if we start to remember that being a Canadian is more important than being conservative, liberal or whatever.

Over the course of my life, I’ve learned that the old saying is quite true; ‘a house divided cannot stand for long’.  Over the course of the summer, I learned that a house doesn’t handle floods very well either.


© 2015 Maggie’s Bear

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  • JWM

    It sounds like you almost needed to rebuild. As far as the election goes Canadians got what the system allowed for. The out come may have been different with a two party system, maybe. It has always seemed strange to me that 38% of the vote can take all the marbles.

    • MaggiesBear

      It was bad enough but fortunately it was mostly finishing stuff that was damaged; drywall, flooring etc. The basic structure remained undamaged. As for our electoral system, it is a bit strange but it was originally built on a two party system that the country has outgrown. We’ve gone from two parties to many, five of which capture some measurable percentage of the vote. Our system of voting has not kept up with that evolution which results in a party with less than a majority of all ballots cast being awarded a majority of the seats. The new government is pledged to changing that and will strike a committee to examine some kind of proportional representation which has its own peculiarities and flaws. It remains to be seen if the new government will keep its word but until proven otherwise, I think we should hope for the best. The current system is unsustainable.

  • JoeFrmEdm

    Welcome back So sorry for the flood how everything is OK Now..

    • MaggiesBear

      Things are good thank you. You get through these things and on the other side, they never seem to be quite as bad as they did when you were going through them. We’re looking forward to Halloween with our grandchildren and then Christmas. So it’s all good.

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  • CanadaGoose1

    Welcome back! Only worse would be if you had to do all that work in the winter.
    I’m all for civility in politics but there’s zero good will on the other side and in much of the media. Despite Trudeau’s words about neighbours in reality we are not considered real Canadians.

    • MaggiesBear

      We count our blessings that the great flood happened in June and not January. I might have gone postal half way through the restoration of things. On your other point, I read five or six newspapers every day and track all of the major television networks. It’s one of the few benefits of being retired. You get to fill part of your day with inane commentary. I don’t see a universal bias against conservatives. What I see is this newspaper biased against conservatives and that one biased against progressives. It depends on the paper. Nobody would suggest for a moment that the Sun Newspaper chain or the National Post was anti-conservative and virtually every talk radio station I’ve listened too through the Internet is also pro–conservative. Having said that, I think the real problem with the media is it’s shallow, commentary which tends to add nothing to the discussion other than to play on the emotions of readers. As for civility in general, I believe that a lack of civility in others doesn’t justify a lack of it from me. It has to start somewhere and if all of us continue to hurl insults back and forth then we’re never going to change anything or even move forward. We’ll just keep making the same mistake repeatedly and wonder what happened to our country.